“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”.
La Boite Theatre kick-started their 2012 Season with Shakespearian comedy As You Like It. It seems Shakespeare is becoming a traditional opening for La Boite, which isn’t such a bead thing. If someone is going to bring a younger audience to Shakespeare, it best be edgy La Boite Theatre. However, after two years of Shakespearean Tragedies it is lovely to see a comedy in the mix.
As You Like It, with it’s largest cast to perform on the La Boite stage, is eloquently described in the playbill as “a life-affirming trip into the Forest of Arden; a feast of wit and wisdom, love and lust, cross-dressing and cross-purposes”.
For those who need a refresher on the Bard’s work, here are the footnotes:
Rosalind falls in love at first sight with the younger Orlando, but is banished from the court by her uncle. She takes refuge with her best friend in tow (the uncles daughter), in the Forest of Arden where she disguises herself as a man. Here in this magical forest she re-encounters Orlando, but as Ganymede the man. And so the fun starts. Orlando, also smitten by Rosalind takes lessons in the art of love from Ganymede who plays, pokes, and prods with his affections to test the integrity of his love.
The casting by artistic director David Berthold was inspired; providing a unique look into the work. In this production Rosalind is a cougar played by Helen Howard, with Orlando played by 25-year-old Thomas Larkin. Howard was in a word, brilliant. Those who know her understand that one word is all that is needed to describe Helen’s work. Those who don’t need to go see this show to appreciate one of Brisbane’s most treasured actors.
Larkin, as Orlando, more than proved he could stand equally onstage with Howard, without her mere presence gobbling him up. I was certainly won over early on and impressed by his ability to match Howard’s energy.
The other piece of inspired casting was the show stealing comic mastery of Bryan Probets, who played the court fool Touchstone, in an award winning performance, (and I mean that in the truest sense). Probets displayed the pinnacle of what can be achieved with comedy. He was all over this role at 110 percent the entire time. His character study and physical comedy was truly pure artistry and excellence. I would love to know how his character developed and to what extent the collaboration was between director and actor. This would be a fascinating study, as every sentence had vocal variation and it’s own physical life – Bravo Bryan!
Berthold extended the cross-dressing theme with the Duke Senior played by Kate Wilson and Audrey played by Hayden Spencer. Couple two fantastic well-known comedic actors (Spencer and Probets) as cross-dressing lovers (Audrey the shepherdess and Touchstone the court fool), and hilarity ensues.
It’s interesting to note that in the days of Shakespeare, cross-dressing was not controversial but a rudimentary necessity as all actors were male.
Rounding out the cast of eighteen included Helen Cassidy as Celia, Kathryn Marquet as shepherdess Phoebe, Trevor Stuart as Jaques, Luke Cadden and Dominic Nimomaking.
Another beautiful moment was when Trevor Stuart as the melancholic Jaques, transforms before our eyes, revealing a character introduced earlier in the play, Adam the servant companion of Orlando – a truly touching moment.
It was also lovely to see La Boite feature eight students actors from QUT and Southbank Institute of Technology who filled out the ensemble: Thomas Carney, Hanna Galbraith, Thomas Hutchins, Jordan Kadell, Lucy-Ann Langkilde, Jerome Meyer, Alec Snow and Mahala Wallace.
Theatre inherently has a sacred cultural significance to thespians and it is truly wonderful to see the leaders take on the elder’s role in handing down the tradition with younger generations and generously sharing the stage. The La Boite Theatre is often perceived as the impenetratable mecca for Brisbane actors. This humble offering shows that La Boite is indeed accessible and nuturing to emerging actor’s and what better text to pass on the tradition than Shakespeare. I was touched to witness this sacred gathering in this sacred place called the Roundhouse Theatre and truly hope this becomes a ‘tradition’ of La Boite Theatre.
Lastly, I would like to mention the set, which was inspired by the atmosphere of the Woodford Folk Festival. Even though the set was simple and sparse on the whole, that does not mean to say it was boring or lacking. In fact, there was a moment when the set transformed into the Forest of Arden, that an audible surprise could be heard from an awe inspired audience. It was just magical, and quite clever that some of the set came over the audience rows, which made us feel a part of the action.
La Boite’s As You Like It is a delightfully fun and frivolous production that I felt joyously privileged to experience.
Director: David Berthold
Designer: Renée Mulder
Lighting Designer: David Walters
Composer and Sound Designer: Guy Webster
Assistant Directors: Heather Fairbairn and Steven Mitchell Wright